Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Society: Are We Asking the Right Questions?

A study was done with identical twins, at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Buenos Aires in October of 2013. Inside one room, dressed exactly the same sitting side by side are pairs of identical twins. They are staring straight ahead, expressionless.

Then random people filter into the room, sit in front of each pair and are asked questions about the twins through a headset. The people answer by pressing a button to choose one twin over the other. The only difference between the twins is one is chewing gum while the other is not.

The point of the study is to apparently determine if the social stigma about people chewing gum is correct. The conclusion of the test is that the twin chewing gum makes the better impression. And that ends up being a fairly surprising thing since most people are told that chewing gum makes a less favorable impression. So this seems like break-through research.

Unless you consider that the Beldent test givers may have been asking the wrong questions.


Some of the questions in the video include:

Which one seems like he has more friends?
Which gets invited to more parties?
Which of these bosses would give you a raise?
Which one has a better sex life?
Which never puts money into the employee gift pool?

From the examples given in the video they seem to be about establishing "social comfort" factors that translate into likability, being casual and relaxed and going with the flow. In that instance the twin chewing gum trumped nearly every time. The end statistic showed that despite every other factor being the same, 73% of the people answering the questions favored the gum chewing twin. 

But what would happen if the line of questions changed? What if instead of asking about how casual and friendly they seem, what if they focused on things that are serious and really matter?

What if they asked:

Which one would you rather have perform surgery on you?
Which seems like they'd make a better defense attorney?
Which one seems more likely to cheat on a test?
Which of them would probably be more faithful in a relationship?
Which one would you trust with an important position of management in your company? 

I'm willing to bet then that the casual gum chewer would suddenly be the less favored candidate, and for all the same reasons that the first line of questions went well for them.

If the act of chewing gum makes a person seem:

more casual
more relaxed (maybe also more ethically/morally relaxed)
more friendly
more playful
more sexual

Doesn't it also seem that conversely gun chewers would also seem:

less serious
less responsible
less accountable
less educated 
more superficial

Since we don't have the full list of the questions asked during the study, but by using "if this, than that" line of reasoning, we can conclude that it would probably be fine to chew gum in casual environments (say a first meet/ date with someone) but probably not to something where you'll be judged upon your ability to be serious and sophisticated (like a corporate job interview).

It might also be fine for a stand up comedian or a sports coach to be "on the job" chewing gum, it would probably not be wise for a conference speaker or the president of a country to be seen publicly speaking while chewing away on a wad of gum.

It's hard to get a full picture of what effect chewing gum implies about someone. The answer of what it suggested about them varies based upon maybe what information you are trying to gather about that person. But one thing we can be absolutely sure of. Chewing gum does leave an impression. Take that into consideration the next time you break out the gum. People will be assuming things about you based upon that single choice, whether you want them to or not.

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